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I spent $4,631.86 on Google Ads [Here's what I learned]

Lots of instructors wonder whether it's viable to spend money running ads for their courses.


So, I got my wallet out and spent $4,631.86 on Google Ads, so you don’t have to.


Before we get into the context of this post, let me give everyone some background on what I do for a living.


I run a dedicated SEO Agency in London, however, for our large clients that spend over a specific threshold with us, we offer a boutique Google Ads service as well.


At the time of writing, we manage Google Ads for 12 clients with a total monthly ad spend of $36,000/ m


I don’t say any of this to brag. This is simply to give this post more context and to reassure you that I’m not new to marketing by any means. 


In other words, this was not $4.6k spent by someone who has no idea what they’re doing and hoping for the best.



The ultimate goal was to try and generate as many sales as I can, whilst trying to stay as profitable as possible.


I opted to allocate the spend on one of my courses that was marked as the “Highest rated” in hope that if I could generate enough traffic, I would be able to:


  • Convert a lot of that traffic into sales (the badge should boost conversions)  
  • Potentially generate enough sales to the point where my course became the “best seller” in that topic.

In total, I spent $4,631.86 (£3,484.12) over the course of 3 months (no pun intended).


As I’m UK-based, I’ll use the GBP figure from here onwards.

Money spent.png


The Campaign Details

Below is a spreadsheet I used to track all the sales that came from the ad campaign.


I used the instructor promo referral link as the destination URL for all ads. This allowed me to quite easily track the number of sales, whilst also ensuring I kept 97% of the revenue.


Overiew of sales.png


High-Level Numbers

In total, I generated 160 sales from 5,839 clicks (£3,484.12 total ad spend)

That’s a Conversion Rate of 2.7%.


From these 160 sales, I generated £1,254.28 in revenue.

This provides me with a 36% ROAS (return on ad spend), meaning for every £1 spent, I received 36p from Udemy). 


Location Targeting

I decided not to restrict the ads to one specific country as I was intrigued to see how the avg CPC varied per country. 


Below is a breakdown of that data:


Country Data.png


As you can see, the USA had the highest CPC (cost per click) with every click costing me an avg £3.06.

Whereas the cheapest CPC was coming from showing my ads in India and Indonesia.


Despite India and Indonesia having the cheapest CPCs, those clicks resulted in some of the lowest conversion rates, and as a result, produced the lowest ROAS.


Keyword targeting

I initially had one campaign targeting your standard course related keywords e.g “online yoga course”, however, we noticed a lot of people were using the word “Udemy” in their searches e.g “Udemy online yoga course”.


So, I set up another campaign and targeted the same keywords but added the word "Udemy" in front of them. This boosted my Google Ads quality score and also produced some significant improvements.


Overall the Click Through Rate (CTR) was 8.52%, whereas for keywords mentioning ‘Udemy’ it was 26.5%.


That's a 3x improvement.


I also saw a similar trend comparing the conversion rate for these two campaigns too:

The overall Conversion Rate was 2.7%, whereas for keywords mentioning ‘Udemy’ it was 5.3%


That’s almost a 2x improvement. 


Side note: Although I had a ROAS of just 2.7%, what these numbers do not take into consideration is the lifetime value of a student. So in reality, the ROAS is most likely a lot higher.


Problems I ran into

1 - The biggest problem I ran into by far is the lack of conversion data. Udemy does not provide an option for instructors to add conversion tracking data on their course landing pages, this makes it impossible for instructors to be able to determine what clicks and keywords have generated the sale. Meaning, I had to literally guess what keywords were performing the best and generating my sales, not an ideal strategy when you have your money on the line.


2 - Udemy is always changing the price of courses, this makes it notoriously tricky to be able to determine what amount to bid on a keyword. One day bidding £2/ click may work out profitable, however, the next, that same £2/ click could put me at a massive loss.


3 - Udemy does not provide data on what country a sale came from, they only provide you with the currency of the transaction. I targeted the whole of Europe and had lots of sales in the currency “EUR”.  As a result, I wasn’t able to determine what specific country within Europe those sales were coming from, again making a lot of the optimization guesswork. 


4 - Lastly, the coupon codes are only valid for 31 days so I had to keep on going into the course every month to generate another coupon code, this also meant I had one less coupon to use for my monthly promo emails that I send out, not ideal.


Thinking about running ads? Here’s my advice:


- Don’t just focus on CPC when determining what country to target, export all the sales data and work out how well the traffic from that specific country is converting. 


- As Udemy does not provide conversion tracking, it's pretty much impossible for you to figure out what keyword that you bidded on attributed to a sale. You can try to counter this by having unique coupons for each ad group you run, but again, it's far from ideal and is something you should be aware of from the start.


- Focus the majority of your ad spend on keywords and ads that mention Udemy. These keywords have an extremely high buyer intent as users have already expressed they’re looking for a course on Udemy.


Cool fact: The course I ran ads to actually ended up receiving the best seller badge, although I can't be certain it was due to this ad campaign as in reality the sales generated with quite low.

So, there you have it.



@Joshua George 


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Thank you so much, Joshua. You provided high-value information and potentially saved us instructors hundreds of dollars. 

Great share. How long does it take for traffic pushed directly  from like a Facebook boost to show up in the traffic data page. 


This is just a brilliant post. Thanks for sharing. One thing I do wonder is: How does Udemy itself run the ads in a profitable way, since for us as instructors it's nearly impossible (as per your post and as per my thorough personal experience.) 


Best regards,



Thank you Joshua, this is such a excellent viewpoint, definitely will help put my ads money in the right spot.


I was also thinking of using google ads. The problem I encountered is that Google Ads wants the target URL to be that of a verified site. how did you do it?


This was a very helpful article!


@Alessandro_G  - I'm not quite sure what you mean by a verified site. Can you please elaborate?


I ran also into same issue as mentioned in the article related to tracking, one simple workaround to at least track page visits, I created a site that redirects people to the course page; the html page I created has my own google tracking tags in it's code; so this was a cheap yet better than nothing solution to use actual page visits (with your coupon or referral link) to help Google Ads self optimize if you put page load as a conversion goal value.




You cannot use the word "Udemy" as part of your ads since it's prohibited by both Google and Udemy as it's a trademark. However, you can still use keywords for matching.


Your best bet is to optimize your ads as much as possible and use multiple alternative channels.


Unfortunately, Udemy still doesn't provide any API that could make tracking easier. With the trick I mentioned above in my previous post, you can just track page views.


I will share how it went for me in like 3 weeks once my 1 month experiment is over regarding Google Ads.


Fingers crossed!


Awesome post, thank you for sharing!




So I had been running Google Ads for around a month or so; I did get extra sales which was a refreshing change. However, since I'm new to running online ads, I made few mistakes such as picking the wrong settings; on top of that, I had to leave Google Ads due to their intrusive and anti-Indie policies to a more friendly platform such as Bing. Unfortunately, I've had to start over but this time without doing the same errors I had before.


I'm still tweaking my campaigns and it will require another 2 month till I see the results or difference. Unfortunately, since my courses target very specific specialized audience, I do not think that running online ads will make any significant improvement for me in terms of performance. I do agree however, that running ads, if done right, it can help push your sales performance tremendously.


You have also to weight in, other issues/factors to your success such as popularity of the topic and changing market demands in tech education.




So my experiment with Bing, was an epic failure. My recommendation, stick to Google Ads instead. Countless complains about Bing banning advertisers by error or without clear explanation. Stay away from Bing!


As of now, I'm using other platforms but how effective this will be, remains to be seen. Overall, I think that it's not as easy as the author of the article would like to make it seem like. Note that he mentioned that he runs an SEO agency; so for the regular instructor who doesn't have that kind of resources, it's an uphill battle specially if they do not have basic SEO knowledge and understanding the nuances of online marketing.


I'm not discrediting the person who posted this; definitely very useful insight specially about the demographics which is partially true but let's make it clear that it's not as easy as it sounds and Udemy unfortunately aren't making this any easier (unfortunately).


Proposed solution:


Udemy should be more transparent about the traffic and how actually the student learned about the course, NOT what coupon code they used. Udemy's coupon codes are all over the internet so good luck making sure your referrals will use the correct coupon code or even care about using the link you provide.


A simple questionnaire that pops up when a student enrolls, asks student how they found the course and whether it was Udemy's promotion or the instructor's.


So my message to Udemy, it's not enough to setup meetings or webinars with the instructors. To motivate everyone to keep producing quality content that enriches your platform, you have to solve the root issue which is very low income for the instructor. Other platforms are offering at least 50/50 share.


What I wrote above, is not meant as a complaint but rather as a constructive criticism on how Udemy can motivate us to be more active on the platform while keeping them and the students happy. A motivated instructor, produces better content which leads to more people signing up on Udemy.


Hope this makes sense